When to Harvest Parsnips:
Harvest parsnips when roots reach full size, about 1½ to 2 inches (3-8 cm) in diameter and 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) long.
Parsnip roots are best lifted in late fall after they have been exposed to several moderate freezes. Temperatures below °30F (-1°C) convert root starches to sugars giving parsnips a sweet, nut-like flavor.
Parsnips are ready for lifting 100 to 120 days from seeding.
How to Harvest Parsnips:
Use a digging fork to loosen soil around parsnip roots and lift roots carefully; damaged and bruised roots do not store well.
How to Store Parsnips:
• Trim away all but ½ inch of foliage and brush away soil before storing parsnips.
• Store parsnips cold and moist, 32°-40°F (0°-4°C) and 95 percent relative humidity. Place roots in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. A refrigerator provides the cold, but also dries the air; placing parsnips in a perforated plastic bag creates a moist environment.
• Parsnips also can be stored in the garden, root cellar, or garage.
• Store parsnips in the garden if soil can be insulated from freezing. Keep the soil at 35° to 40°F (2°-4° C) by putting a 10- to 12-inch-thick layer of leaves, hay, or straw mulch over the rows; extend the mulch on both sides of each row by another 18 inches or more. This should protect roots even beneath two feet of snow. Dig roots through the winter as needed. If parsnips stay in the ground all winter, harvest them before new top growth starts in spring.
• If roots can’t be protected from freezing soil, dig them up and store them in a root cellar or basement or in a garage where the temperature is about 32° to 38°F (0°-3°C); store roots in a bucket or wooden box filled with just damp sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Pack the roots so that they are insulated and covered and do not touch one another; some moist air must be able to circulate so don’t completely seal the container.
• Parsnips will store for 4 to 6 months.
• Check roots during storage and remove those that begin to deteriorate.
• Do not store parsnips with apples or pears; those fruits emit natural ethylene gas which causes parsnip roots to become bitter.
More tips: How to Grow Parsnips.